October 28, 2014

On Tuesday, the Committee to Protect Journalists released a report entitled “The Road to Justice: Breaking the Cycle of Impunity In the Killing of Journalists.”

Toward the end of the report there’s an index. It comprises seven pages with the names of journalists killed with full or partial impunity. Those first two lists contain 361 names.

The third list, with the names of those whose killers were prosecuted, has just nine names.

CPJ started its Impunity Index in 2008, according to the report. It started counting and investigating the murder of journalists in 1992.

The numbers paint a shocking picture. In the decade from 2004 through 2013, 370 journalists have been murdered in direct retaliation for their work. The vast majority were local journalists reporting on corruption, crime, human rights, politics and war, among other issues of vital importance to their societies. In 90 percent of all these cases there has been total impunity—no arrests, no prosecutions, no convictions. In some cases, the assassin or an accomplice has been convicted; in only a handful is the mastermind of the crime brought to justice.

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Iraq, Somalia, Russia, Mexico, and the Philippines are among the countries highlighted in the report, according to a press release about the report from CPJ.

It also highlights countries that are starting to show improvements — Colombia and Brazil, for example — and the challenges they continue to face. The report explores the reasons behind impunity—conflict, corruption, weak institutions — but makes the case that a lack of political will is the most prevalent impediment to justice. This is particularly apparent in the high number of cases in which suspects are political or military officials or other powerful figures who wield economic or political power in their communities — and in the fact that those who commissioned the murders of journalists are rarely brought to justice.

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The report includes several group-specific recommendations on how to protect journalists, what works and what doesn’t work in making change, and a few recommendations for journalists themselves.

To local and international journalists

• Monitor and report on implementation of key international commitments to combat impunity, particularly the U.N. Plan of Action for the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity and the UNGA resolution on the safety of journalists.

• Investigate and report on issues of anti-press violence, including individual attacks, threats, and harassment, regardless of the victim’s media affiliation.

You can find the full report here.

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Kristen Hare covers the people and business of local news and is the editor of Locally at Poynter. She previously worked as a staff writer…
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